Garmin Forerunner 745 versus Venu 2: Which Should You Buy?

The Venu 2S next to the Forerunner 745
Cameron Summerson

When I reviewed the Garmin Venu 2 earlier this year, several people asked about the Forerunner 745 in comparison. The two are similar in features and close enough in price (Venu is $399; Forerunner is $499), but they’re definitely for totally different people. So, who is each one for? Let’s take a closer look.

I originally called the Venu 2 “the fitness watch for everyone,” and I still think that’s accurate. Everyone, of course, meaning the everyman—the folks who want a good looking watch that can also do some smart stuff. Those looking for more than an Apple Watch for fitness but aren’t ready to fully nerd out on their performance. That’s the Venu crowd.

The Forerunner 745 (and the Forerunner series at large, really) is where you go from there. When you get to a point where you’re looking to take your fitness game to the next level, add more sports, or really dig into the metrics. It’s not as pretty, as smart, or as modern feeling, but it’s the watch that can help you dig deep, hit your goals, and become more of the athlete you want to be.

Let’s dig in.

What Are the Similarities?

If you look at the list of things each watch can do, you’re going to see a striking number of identical options. At the core, these are both fitness-first watches, where your performance is everything and smart features come second. If you’re looking solely for a smartwatch, neither of these is your best bet.

The Venu 2S next the Forerunner 745
Cameron Summerson

They can both track daily metrics, like heart rate, pulse ox, steps, hydration, calories, and sleep. They both have Garmin’s advanced Firstbeat sleep tracking for a detailed look at how you sleep and how to improve. They’re both water resistant and have Garmin Pay. They can both store music for playback without your phone (500 songs for the Forerunner, 650 songs for the Venu 2).

If you want to track runs, walks, swims, hikes, cycling activities, and more, they can both do that with the built-in GPS. The level of detail and supported sensors will vary between watches, but we’ll talk about that more down below.

So, from an aerial view, there’s a lot of overlap between this pair. But as is usually the case, the devil is in the details.

The Venu 2 Is the Logical First Step

If you’re looking to take a step away from the typical smartwatch and into something more fitness-focused, the Venu 2 is where it’s at. So, for example, if you’ve been wearing an Apple Watch for a couple of years and find its fitness features to be lacking (they’re very simple), the Venu 2 is a great option— keep in mind you’ll lose a bunch of the “smart” features, like direct access to Siri. This is a smartwatch only in the simplest definition of the word. The primary focus and function here is fitness.

A look at some of the Venu 2's features
Garmin

And for that, it’ll run circles around any Apple Watch (or other smartwatch or basic fitness tracker). The Venu 2 can track almost any workout you’d want, including running (indoor, outdoor, and treadmill), hiking, climbing, bouldering, skiing, snowboarding, rowing, cycling, pool swimming, and more.

Now, you’ll note a few specifics here. To start, it can’t track, uh, track running—as in, on an actual track, which is handled differently than other types of runs.. Or open swims. It also doesn’t support advanced sensors like cycling power meters, tools for running dynamics, and the like. It does have support for things like external heart rate monitors and speed/cadence sensors, though. As I said, it’s a step up from most other smartwatches or fitness trackers, but it’s not that full step into a “fitness watch.” Baby steps, y’all.

While the Forerunner 745 may be more powerful when it comes to fitness tracking (which we’ll get into down below), the Venu 2 will definitely have more appeal if you’re looking for a more aesthetically pleasing and modern feeling watch.

To start, the Venu 2 has a touchscreen, so it will feel very natural for anyone coming from another smartwatch. To add to that, it’s an OLED display, so it’s absolutely gorgeous. Bold, beautiful colors juxtaposed by deep blacks make this watch’s face an absolute joy to look at.

Of course, this type of display can also be harder to look at in the brightest lighting conditions, making it hard to see outdoors in the sun. By contrast, the Forerunner 745 uses a transflective display, which means colors are washed out and dull, but it works exceptionally well outside—even without the backlight on.

More of the Venu 2's features
Garmin

While I will readily say the Forerunner 745 is for “serious athletes,” there are things you’ll get with the Venu 2 that you won’t find on any Forerunner. To start, there’s a whole series of animated workouts on the Venu 2, which are great for users who are looking to add more strength training to their workouts but aren’t sure where to start. These are in addition to the cardio workouts mentioned above.

On top of that, and one of the features I find most interesting on the Venu 2 is that you can track golf activities here. The Forerunner 745 doesn’t offer support for golf, which could be a key activity for many users.

For smart and connected features, the Venu 2 is also nicer. The notification system is cleaner and generally just better to interact with, thanks to the touchscreen. As much as I like buttons on my workout equipment (touchscreens are finicky with gloves and/or sweat), touchscreens are superior for any smart features.

Garmin Venu 2

A powerful fitness watch with a gorgeous OLED display and excellent battery life.

The Forerunner 745 Is for Athletes Who Are Ready for the Next Level

I really hate the term “serious athlete,” as it downplays the hard work put in by anyone who works out. So, out of the gate, I want to make it clear: Regardless of your shape, size, or fitness level, if you work out, you are an athlete. And if you take it seriously, then you’re a serious athlete.

Alas, it’s hard to make it clear in just a few words how the Forerunner 745 is different. It’s for the metric nerds. The data collectors. Those among you who want to know what your split is on your third trip up the local climb. The cyclists who want power data. The runners who need to know their cadence or stride length.

A look at some of the Forerunner 745's features
Garmin

Does that sound like you? Then you want the Forerunner 745 over the Venu 2. I loved the Venu 2 when I reviewed it (and owned the Venu 1 before that), but both always left me wanting. Why? Because I want metrics that they can’t provide. That’s why the 745 is the fitness watch for someone like me.

It not only goes a step further with its accessory and sensor support, but it also has advanced training metrics, like recovery time, lap alerts, outdoor track support, open water swims, audio prompts, virtual partner, and running dynamics … to name a few. It can also track your training status, load, focus, and effect, so you always know if you’re training in the right zones.

But it’s also not as much of a smartwatch, nor does it look as pretty. But these are things that likely won’t matter to those whom this watch will appeal because it’s about the sports functions and nothing else. Mirrored notifications, music control, and the like are all bonuses. But hey, at least they’re present.

One big thing to note about the 745 is its lack of a touchscreen. Anyone who has used a modern smartwatch—or pretty much any other smart device, for that matter—will feel like they just stepped back in time when they strap the 745 on their wrist. The screen is decidedly non-touch, and there’s definitely an acclimation period to using buttons to control your watch.

Some of the Forerunner 745's more advanced features
Garmin

Of course, this is by design—and a smart one at that. Touch controls are great if you’re sitting on the couch and need to swipe through a notification or two. But in the middle of a run or ride? Not so much. And when you throw full-finger gloves into the mix? Not at all. The touch targets on smartwatches have to be so small; they can be hard to hit at the best of times and nearly impossible in mid-stride of with a glove that makes your fingers twice as fat. These are just facts.

For those reasons, I’ve grown to love the non-touch display. I never accidentally swipe the screen when I brush up against something. It doesn’t turn on and do a bunch of funky stuff if I wear my watch in the shower. It’s a little more cumbersome but a lot more intentional. I love that.

Garmin Forerunner 745

An advanced fitness watch that features more metrics and support for powerful sensors.

Conclusion: The Choice Is Pretty Simple

When it all comes down to it, you have to ask yourself what activities you want to track and to what level. For example, I’m a cyclist, and both of my bikes have power meters. Even though I always ride with an Edge 530 cycling computer, I still want my watch to have power meter support. So for me, the Forerunner 745 wins every time.

However, if you’re looking for a great sports watch that can track almost anything and have no need for the vastest sensor support, then the Venu 2 is the better choice for 95% of users. The last 5%, though—the 745 is for you.

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and serves as an Editorial Advisor for How-to Geek and LifeSavvy. He’s been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times. Read Full Bio »

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